Pinhao and Wine tour

Next up on the Northern Portugal road-trip is Pinhao

Pinhao is a small village in northern Portugal. It is surrounded with vineyards and dips down to sit just on the Douro River. It is picturesque and when we visited quite calm and beautiful. The local train runs from Porto to Pinhao and although we did not take the train it is supposed to be a beautiful trip.

We park and pop into one of the IMAG2878vineyard offices to see if we can go on a tour. Unfortunately not…it would appear that booked ahead for the most part is a must. So we wander in the town and down to the river bank to do some googling.

We manage to find a smaller and newer vineyard called Quinta de la Rosa which can accommodate us for the afternoon tour. We march up the hill (perhaps get a taxi) it’s hot but the view is more than nice.

Once we have arrived and joined the tour group we head into the courtyard and off into IMAG2889the processing and storage areas.

Quinta de la Rosa still use the traditional stomping the grapes method which would be amazing to see (in August – September depending on the season). The tour is great, and informative and the lady who takes us around is obviously passionate about Port and the winery.

Next we move on to the tasting, we try in all 2 different wines and 3 different ports. I would recommend this winery tour is a great option for a reasonably priced option. Although there are lots of options out there…make sure you book in advance if you have particular tours you want to go on.

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This post is not sponsored at all but if you would like more information about Quinta de la Rosa please click here .

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Tawny Elf

We’ve been away and with the new addition to the Elf clan, we have also been very disorganized and didn’t get anything lined up on the site for our away time.  So now we are back and back to business!

We’ve been in Porto and into the Port wine (especially the Tawny, my new favorite thing). 

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We arrive on a Friday morning and catch the metro from the airport into town before walking to our Air B and B.  The metro is relatively easy to use and find within the airport.  Have change with you for this, it makes it so much easier.  You buy a card for 60 cents and then add trips to it.  Two important things to remember: 

1. Once you chose the type of trip (day travel or individual trips) that is the only type of trip you can use the card for.
         2. When you use the machine for the first time remember you need a card per person. When you select 2 trips you will get one card with 2 trips on it.  So best bet is to do them individually. 

Right, boring information bit over.  

We spend our first two day wandering in the streets of Porto.  We walk up the hill into the Cathedral, which is lovely but not as nice as some of the little churches that we discover as we walk around.  But the view from the Cathedral beside the Bishop’s IMAG2822Residence is lovely.  This is a lovely area and well worth a visit.  

We duck into 3-4 different churches which are beautiful all inlaid with gold our favorite is Igreja de Sao Francisco.  Porto is a wonderful place to wander in and the views that open out as you turn a bend in a little alleyway.  The tiled houses with their different colours and the terracotta roof tiles make this city lovely to look at. 

Head across the big iron bridge called Dom Luís I Bridge built by Théophile Seyrig, there are two levels and you can walk across both.  The view from the top level is spectacular. The bridge connects you to Vila Nova de Gaia, which is where the port cellars are.  The view back across the river to Porto is fab.

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Once you are in Vila Nova de Gaia, you will see all the signs pointing you along the water front to the different Port wine cellars.  The different companies offer a variety of tours and tastings, tours only or tastings only.  The best tour and tasting combination (as recommended by a local) is Crofts, to get to Crofts head along the waterfront and past Sandemans and you will see the signs. 

For a good quality tasting head along to Quinta do Noval.  If you want to tour here you will need to book well in advance, at the moment of publishing this blog, the next available tour is in September!  But if you want a good tasting, this is a great place to start.  It is a little more expensive than other options but the quality and different types of wines and ports that you will get to try make it well worth it.  We split the 40 year old taster between four people at a price of 40 euros.  The tasting comes with explanations of each of the wines and ports, how they are made, what the difference in ageing process is, bottling and so on.  Also…wow, so tasty.

More information about Noval here

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More from our Northern Portugal adventure soon!

Flashback to Scotland

A couple of years ago we headed off for a weekend in the highlands.  This is a hazy half remembered reminiscence of that wonderful trip.

We started in Edinburgh which is a wonderful old city.  The buildings are stately and imposing and keep the city looking elegant.  The walk up to the castle is like stepping back in time,  the castle an imposing sight.  Well worth the cue and the cost to get in and explore.

From Edinburgh we head up through Glenroth and on to Aberfeldy.  Aberfeldy is a small and cute market town with  a distillery, the main attraction is the Wade Bridge.  Its a town from a chocolate tin lid.

Back on the road and we head into the highlands proper.  The whole landscape is different to anything else that I have ever experienced.  Apart from the heather which turns the ground purple, it feels almost barren but still manages to be devastatingly beautiful.

After wandering in fields of heather we’re back on the move and make it up to Inverness for dinner (haggis of course).  We walk beside the river as the sunsets and watch the lights of the bridge change colour.  IMAG0569

The next morning we make it to Loch Ness wherefor some mad reason we take a swim.  Locals are in full 5mm wet suits as we wonder in, in our swimmers.  Its freezing, we turn blue and get out pretty quickly.

The more I reminisce about this trip and remember the amazing-ness of the place and the craziness of seeing the Hogwarts Express…well we might just have to go back and do it all again.

Mersea Island

Mersea Island is a large estuary island in Essex, close to Colchester.  You can grab a train to Colchester or the easiest option is to head out in a car.  It’s about an hour and half in the car and the scenery is lovely especially with the sun shining away.

I love London but sometimes you have to get out of the city and into the green or onto the sand.

Driving through the countryside laughing the time passes easily and we arrive via Colchester, which is quiet a pretty old Roman town.  Colchester is one of the UKs oldest towns and is steeped in history, and was once the capital of Roman Britain before being destroyed during Boadicea’s time.  There is a castle, museum and Roman walls, but we’re on a mission to the seaside!

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A little bit longer in the car and we head into Mersea and follow the signs to the seaside.

There are lots of families and everyone has their dog!  It’s great, we walk along the beach and follow the coast around and then along the coastal path.  There are swans in the water and one side and sail boats the other, we wonder and enjoy the sun and the fresh air.  You will need to keep your shoes on and don’t expect sand between the toes or palm trees.  Its brisk and the sand is full of oyster shells and muscle shells.  Its rugged and stark but wonderful.

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We’re hungry and we’ve a hankering for fish and chips.  My favourite.  We jump back into the car and head back towards West Mersea’s famous oyster bar.  It looks little more than a harbour shed with a pungent fish smell, but inside its full to bursting we are lucky and manage to get a seat.  The girls order oysters…the devil’s snot, not for me.  But, we also have haddock and chips with mushy peas and homemade tartare sauce…and it is amazing, seriously the best fish and chips I think I have ever had (and I eat a lot of fish and chips…it’s my favourite, my go to in pubs across the world).

Such a good day out.  Really everyone should go. Get out in the sun and enjoy.

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More Munich

Munich has lots to offer for all sorts of travellers, you can make a trip whatever you want.  There are also plenty of options for accommodation, hostels, luxury hotels, mid-range hotels and pensions.  What we weren’t able to find were any Airbnb options that we liked although they might be fine depending on the number of your group.  Below we have chosen some of the things we enjoyed the most during our time in Munich.

For the outdoor person

Munich has a lot to offer and if you are an active and outdoor sort of person I recommend joining a free walking tour.  Most of the hostels are affiliated with a tour which will pick you up from the front door.  We walked with Sandeman’s free walking tour which started at Marienplatz, we walked for a good 2 hours though the different areas of central Munich, history, tales, culture and language all featured on the tour.  We do love a free walking tour (the concept, in case you aren’t familiar is that you tip what you think its worth at the end of the tour, this is how the guide is paid) and this was no exception.  Our guide was brilliant and pointed out lots of good places to eat as well as a few sites to see as well.

Sandeman’s tour information:

http://www.neweuropetours.eu/Munich/en/home?date=14/01/2017&tour=552

For the history person

Munich has looaaaaddddsss of museums.  There is a museum of hunting and fishing! We recommend the Municipal Museum of Munich (Muenchner Stadtmuseum).  The museum has changing guest exhibitions we chose to just see the permanent exhibitions the ticket cost 4 euros (2 euros if you have a student card – well worth taking around with you!) the ticket entities you entrance to ‘Typically Munich’ and an exhibition about the history of Munich as the capital of the Nazi movement.

The ‘Typically Munich’ exhibition stretches over several floors and explains how Munich was settled and grew as well as the culture of Bavaria.  It’s a wonderful exhibition and lots of information about the city and its people.

The exhibition about Munich’s darker past is also worth seeing.  Its illuminating and informative with lots of information available.  It is, in our current political climate in the western world especially worth viewing.

Elf’s tip – hold on to your ticket it gives you 50% of entrance to some of the other museums.

More information on Munich’s museums here:

http://museen-in-muenchen.de/en/home/visitorservices/info-neu-2014/combination-tickets/

For the arty person

There are three main art galleries in Munich all situated close to each other, the Neue Pinakothek, Pinakothek der Moderne and Alte Pinakothek.  You can get a combination ticket to all three which is the cheapest way to see them all.

We head in to the New Pinakothek, the gallery is beautifully laid out, we pass though rooms of wonderful paintings.  I linger in the rooms filled with Van Gogh, Monet and Manet.  There is even a beautiful and unusual Degas that does not feature a ballet dancer.  We spend several hours lingering in front bits of history and I thoroughly enjoy the relaxed and mostly empty gallery.

On this same link is information about the combination tickets:

http://museen-in-muenchen.de/en/home/visitorservices/info-neu-2014/combination-tickets/


Elf’s tip:  the audio guides in all the museums and galleries that we visited are free.

Something completely different

If you want to see something crazy, head over to the English Garden and follow the Eisbach which is a small river channel hat runs though the gardens.  Although you are not allowed to swim in the Eisbach you can…. surf!  A manmade wave has been created and we are told that whatever the weather you will find surfers here.  We head in that direction and to be honest given the -2 temperature and snow everywhere, we did not have much hope.  But, fear not the surfers are there is full wetsuits and boots, bright red faces, and amazing skills.  definitely very cool!

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Elf walks a llama

Llama, funny looking tall creatures from South America who’s wool is used to create beautiful soft jumpers.  Why am I talking about llama’s, well I like them, but because today I got to meet two in particular, Teddy and Nicolas.

We drive off on a Sunday morning to East Sussex to Bluecap farm to meet some llamas.  Once we arrive after a lovely sunny drive though the countryside which is lovely… it starts to rain, oh well.  Once we arrive and meet the llamas (they don’t like umbrellas) we pair up and head off for a very nice walk through the winding lanes.  Its very relaxing and I chat away with Teddy who ambles along beside me.  I really enjoy myself and our young guide tells us lots about the llamas and the farm, which was interesting.  We soon arrive back at the farm and enjoy a cup of tea.

I like llamas, one day I might even get one or two of my own!

(Elf’s promise this is not a sponsored post!)